Designing the Modern Transit Hub

We’ve all experienced it: traveling to a new city only to immediately have a less-than-pleasant encounter with public transportation. This is a design problem, to be sure, and the design of transit hubs is too often geared more toward retail and consumption than purposeful wayfinding. A recent Think Tank discussion considered various responses to this challenge.

The conversation, moderated by Susan S. Szenasy, Metropolis’s director of design innovation, and held at Grimshaw’s New York office, kicked off with an age-old comparison: Grand Central Terminal versus Penn Station, or “the glory of the city and the shame of the city,” in Szenasy’s words. Despite the passage of years, the destruction of the old Penn Station—one of the city’s great pieces of civic infrastructure—and its third-rate replacement are still a “glaring example of what not to do” in urban design.

Erick Gregory, deputy director of the urban design office at the NYC Department of City Planning, brought the conversation down to the scale of the everyday. “When thinking about these neighborhood transit hubs, how do we amplify them and what is happening in and around them?” he asked. He offered one suggestion particular to New York City: locating public agencies such as the Human Resources Administration around subway stations, which can bring in non-retail activity, elevating these junctions above simple “pass-through” places.

Courtesy Mark Wickens –